Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Future Ireland

An African lady and her wee lad of about five years of age climbed onto the bus one late afternoon as I was slouching home from work. They flopped down into the front seats upstairs among the builders and typists and hospital workers, all lolling wearily as the bus lurched slowly along.

The wee man was in full boyish spate:

"Crrrr-ash! Pu-sssh! Aaaaa-aaaa-ai..."

A McDonalds Happy Meal toy car and a figure were getting the run-over and pushed off a cliff treatment on the ledge by the front window. This continued for some time. The mother shushed him ineffectually a few times. Then she said:

"Now, Michael. If you won't have pity on me, please have pity on that man."

She pointed at a chap sitting in a nearby seat, oblivious to proceedings. His earphones were in and he was gazing blankly out through a gap in the condensation on the window.

"That man and the other men have all been at work and they are tired," she said. "They just want to go home. They don't want to listen to you."

Michael thought this over. His game changed to one with the volume much reduced. When he had had enough, he started poking through his backpack which was resting on the seat between them. The toys went in and a juice bottle came out. He mumbled and muttered through a series of little games as the bus inched along in heavy traffic. Beside him, his mother softly sang something spiritual.

"Do you know," he said, "that when Jesus was small he was lost in the big city and Mary and Joseph couldn't find him?"

His mother nodded.

"When they found him," he said, "he was teaching the teacher."

His gaze went over the stationary traffic, orange indicator lights clicking on and off in the gathering gloom.

"Teaching the teacher," he said again and he laughed.

At their bus stop, the mother and son jumbled their way off the bus, dropping bags and toys, shouting at each other to hurry up, thanking the driver profusely.

On Monday morning last, Michael and his mother were on the early bus as I was travelling to work. He was fizzing. He counted numbers out loud in tens as far as eighty. Then he had an argument with his mother about whether or not a symbol he had seen was a letter "F" or a letter "K". He drew it in the fog on the window. She asked him:

"Do you ever remember meeting a girl named Rachel?"

He sat and thought about this.

"No," he answered. "I don't know anybody named Rachel."

"Rachel was a young girl that I used to know when you were very small," his mother said. "She would have been eleven years of age then, so she must be all grown up by now."

"So, she was bigger than me?"

"Yes. And she is still bigger than you."

The almost-completed roadworks at Firhouse caught his attention.

"Mother," he said. "When all the builders are too old to build.... How will anybody know what the plan is?"

She said: "Other people know the plan too."

"Do you know," he said, "that when they first started building, they only had wood? And then they found metal. And then steel."

"Metal is stronger than steel," his mother said. "You can bend steel."

"Does that mean that the spoon I bent was made from steel?"

"Yes, it was made from steel."

"But can you also bend metal?"

"Some metal can be bent, yes."

"Then how is it stronger than steel?"

At Tallaght, they gathered up their bags and rushed for the top of the stairs again, pushing and pulling at each other, shouting to hurry up. Michael said:

"I am in Jun... no Senior Infants." He grinned.

"Ju'Senior Infants," he laughed.

"Hurry up, Michael!" his mother shouted from the bottom deck.

Michael gripped the bannister rail and descended the steep steps on his way to school. I wonder what he learned that day?

2 comments:

Fitz said...

Thank you :-)

Angharod said...

I honestly don't know any writer who can cover so much world in so few words. It's a unique gift you have my friend. This is just beautiful.